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Brussels, 25th October 2007

Competitive and sustainable destinations discussed at European Tourism Forum

Strategies to make EU tourism destinations competitive by embracing sustainability will be the focal point of discussions at the 6th European Tourism Forum, which takes place tomorrow in Portimao, Algarve in Portugal. At the occasion of this conference, European Commission Vice President Günter Verheugen will present the awards to the winners of the European Destinations of Excellence (EDEN) tomorrow. At the forum the European Commission will also present its new communication launching a strategy to foster sustainable and competitive tourism in Europe. It invites all stakeholders to strengthen the contribution of sustainable practices to making Europe the most attractive tourism destination.

Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen, responsible for enterprise and industry policy, said: “The success and growth potential of Europe as a tourist destination of the future will depend on our capacity to preserve and reinforce the assets of Europe through a combination of reasonable development and innovation of the tourism product."

Ministers of Tourism from Member States as well as Portuguese and European tourism authorities will participate in the European Tourism Forum to discuss the following topics:

  • management and conservation of the natural and cultural heritage;
  • management of resources and waste;
  • sustainable management: corporate responsibility for competitiveness and job creation.

On Friday 19 October 2007, the Commission launched the “Agenda for a Sustainable and Competitive European Tourism”, which follows on the renewed EU Tourism Policy (see IP/06/344). In order to achieve a competitive and sustainable development of tourism in Europe the Commission invites all actors to embrace the following principles:

  • Take a holistic and integrated approach: All the various impacts of tourism should be taken into account in its planning and development.
  • Plan for the long term: Sustainable development is about taking care of the needs of future generations as well as our own. Long term planning requires the ability to sustain actions over time.
  • Achieve an appropriate pace and rhythm of development: The level, pace and shape of development should reflect and respect the character, resources and needs of host communities and destinations.
  • Involve all stakeholders: A sustainable approach requires widespread and committed participation in decision making and practical implementation by all those implicated in the outcome.
  • Use best available knowledge: Policies and actions should be informed by the latest and best knowledge available. Information on tourism trends and impacts, and skills and experience, should be shared across Europe.
  • Minimise and manage risk: Where there is uncertainty about outcomes, there should be full evaluation and preventative action should be taken to avoid damage to the environment or society.
  • Reflect impacts in costs: Prices should reflect the real costs to society of consumption and production activities. This has implications not simply for pollution but for charging for the use of facilities that have significant management costs attached to them.
  • Set and respect limits, where appropriate: The carrying capacity of individual sites and wider areas should be recognised, with a readiness and ability to limit, where and when appropriate, the amount of tourism development and volume of tourist flows.
  • Undertake continuous monitoring: Sustainability is all about understanding impacts and being alert to them all the time, so that the necessary changes and improvements can be made.

The Commission's Agenda aims at strengthening a voluntary and continuous process. It should be promoted by all tourism stakeholders in Europe: the different levels of government – local authorities, destination management organisations, regions, Member States – , businesses, tourists and all other bodies that can stimulate (trade unions, universities, research establishments, ...).

The Communication also contains a message of commitment by the Commission to this Agenda process. It builds the framework for the implementation of supportive European policies and actions in the tourism domain and in all other policy areas which exert an impact on the development of tourism and on its sustainability.
The European Destinations of Excellence (EDEN) Awards Ceremony will also be held in Algarve on the 26th October, with the participation of the winning destinations from across Europe. Both the European Tourism Forum and the EDEN Awards Ceremony will be web-streamed live from Algarve on the 26th October by following this link


Tourism is one of the economic activities with most significant potential to generate future growth and employment in the EU. In its narrow definition, tourism currently contributes some 4% to EU GDP, varying from about 2% in several new Member States and 12% in Malta. Its indirect contribution to GDP creation is much higher - tourism indirectly generates more than 10% of EU GDP and provides about 12% of all jobs.

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